Shut off the voice that says you can’t

Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,

Saturday I had a training breakthrough. Those are hard to come by at this stage of training and racing. I’ve been doing triathlons for a long time, so real revelation is generally reserved for quite moments deep in thought, sunsets, good books, sprititual enlightenment, not physical realization.

I started my 50 mile ride nice and easy like I always do – 13mph down our street, 11 mph up the first hill, and then clicking into a bigger gear for a few miles before settling back into my normal 17mph training pace. But Saturday was different. I still started easy, but after shifting up and picking up the pace I never slowed down.

Cruising along at 24mph I thought a few times that I should slow down. 50 miles is a long ride, especially alone, no matter how many times I’ve done it. I didn’t slow down though.

I had felt bad all week leading up to Saturday. I’m getting up at 4:45am now to train, so I’m perpetually sleepy in addition to being physically tired a lot of the time. My shoulder has been hurting for about 3 weeks and that’s had me down a little. I swam twice last week instead of my normal 3x. I was questioning why I keep coming back for more of this. Thats normal at this stage of training for a long race, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

Friday night Mommy and I went out to dinner. I had a cheeseburger, covered with chili, and jalapenos – not really the meal you order the night before a key workout the next morning. I ate the whole burger…and the fries…and two large beers. The beginnings of checking out mentally on my racing season was in full swing.

Saturday itself was hectic. Mommy went to a CPR training from 8am-1pm. While she was gone I drove down to Columbia to pick you two little ones up from Gramma and Grandfathers, came home to pick you up from a friends sleepover, Izzy, took you three to the park, drove back to Columbia to pick up my car from the shop, and then had a home visit from the Golden Retriever rescue who we’re trying to adopt from. It was a busy day and with each passing minute it got warmer outside, eventually up to 91 degrees by the time I was able to get out for my ride. I drank my BASE Amino, mixed my Roctane in my xlab aero bottle, added a second bottle of water, and grabbed a handful of Gu gels for the ride (2 peanut butter and 1 Roctane Island Nectars).

As I got dressed I drug my feet. My attitude was bad. I told Mommy I didn’t feel like going. And I almost bailed on the ride when Mommy told me she was worried about me riding at that hour of the day (3pm). I try not to ride when people are awake and on the roads. I went though.

A few miles into the ride I was still hammering. You should slow down. I’ve gotten good at listening to that voice. The voice that says “ride within yourself. Save something for later. You can only do what you can do. It’s just a training ride.” I always listen. Not Saturday. “What the heck,” I thought and kept riding hard. When I was wrestling Coach Simpson, and Dan Gable at camp in Iowa, taught me that I had to believe I was capable of anything. If I didn’t believe I was the best guy every time I walked into a room I wasn’t going to excel. I believed them, that I was good enough to do great things and I deserved it. When I shut that negative voice off years ago I accomplished all of my goals. So I shut the voice off for a day of training on the bike.

It was late in the day. It was hot. My shoulder hurt. I was stressed out. So what?

I figured I would stop at the turnaround and ride home easy. I reached 25 miles in 1:12 minutes – the same pace I’d ridden at the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon. That’s a solid ride, I thought. I turned around and started home, riding easier. But before I knew it was cranking again. Comfortably hard on the flats, easy uphill, biggest gear possible down hill. It crossed my mind that I may hit the wall before home and coast home at 12mph. The bonk may come. I shut the voice down again and thought about something Bruce Gennari told a week or two ago: “DTH – drop the hammer. Never think about how good or bad you’re doing, Just focus on the task at hand.” So I rode. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t hard. It just was.

I ended up even splitting the ride. I came home at 2 hours and 24 minutes. Roughly 21mph for 50 hilly miles. That’s faster than all of my half iron bike splits except Orlando (flat and fast). As a reward I ran 3 miles at an 8 minute pace as a transition run and I considered making it an even 10 miles – luckily common sense finally stepped in.

So I wonder what keeps me from riding like that on all of my long rides. It could be laziness, or prevailing coaching wisdom, or maybe it’s that voice in my head that tells me I wasn’t designed to be a fast triathlete.

This morning I capped the weekend off with a 12 mile run. My fastest run in excess of 10 miles since this time last year.

You’re capable of great things in life, kids. Even if it’s just a lonely ride when no one is there to see you. Shut off the voice in your head that says you can’t.

I love you,

– Daddy